HOMILY: SUNDAY 25 ‘A’ 2017
This Sunday and for the next three Sundays, the Second Reading at Mass is from St Paul’s Letter to the Church at Philippi. This was his favourite community – he felt himself bound to this Church at Philippi by special ties of affection and gratitude. If we attend carefully to what St. Paul has to say to this Church, the Christian community at Philippi, it becomes clear that in many ways we, as the Church in this parish today, can learn a lot from the Church at Philippi, in spite of its distance from us in both time and geography.
As I have noted in the News-sheet this week – and as many of you will no doubt be aware – today is the day we keep each year as the anniversary of the foundation of our Parish: even though this year the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham is eclipsed because it falls on a Sunday. But I believe it is still important this year to reflect for a moment on where we are and where we want to go as a Parish, as we have done on this day for the past nine years. And St Paul’s Letter to the Church at Philippi offers us a very good starting point for doing this.
First, throughout his Letter, St Paul speaks very positively of the ‘fellowship’, the joyful ‘communion’, that characterises the community at Philippi. In today’s Reading, St Paul accepts that by his ministry here and now on earth, he can contribute to and strengthen this unity and communion, even though he would rather ‘be with Christ’ in heaven. As we hear more of his Letter over the next three weeks, we shall encounter this emphasis on unity and communion again and again. I hope it will make us renew our thankfulness to God for the friendship and support we experience in our Parish – and also challenge us about whether we could do more to deepen and strengthen not only our communion with the Lord, but also our communion, our bond of love, with one another.
Then St Paul has another important word for us in his Letter: his insistence that we must be always looking forward to the future and not backwards to the past: ‘One thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus’. In the Church’s tradition of prayer and the spiritual life, the word St Paul uses for this ‘straining forward’, ‘pressing forward’ has assumed special significance: it’s become a kind of technical term – in Greek, it is ‘epektasis’. to put it in more everyday language, we must never ‘rest on our laurels’. There must always be a kind of holy dissatisfaction in our hearts – urging us to do more for the Lord and for the advancement of his kingdom.
In practical terms, this means for us – as the Parish Pastoral Council has in recent months enthusiastically agreed – beginning this autumn leafleting some of the new housing developments that are springing up around us in Cromer and Sheringham and Holt and Roughton. The very attractive illustrated leaflets, with basic information about the Parish, are now being printed. I hope that we shall be able to get going with the leafleting next month – and that there will be a generous number of volunteers to do this. It will, I trust, be an important contribution by us in the universal Church’s work of the ‘New Evangelisation’.
So on this her Feast Day, let us once again commend to Our Lady of Walsingham – and also to our other Patron St Joseph – ourselves and all the concerns of our Parish.
Let us pray that what St Paul said to the Philippians, he might also be able to say to us: ‘I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.